Fine large example of this dramatic night time scene of a steamboat race which took place in March of 1858, originally painted by George F. Fuller (1822-1884), a well-known American portrait painter, and later engraved on stone by A Weingartner in New York.
Weingarnter's lithographic print came out in 1859, a year before the first of the Currier & Ives Mississippi steamboat prints, including "Midnight Race on the Mississippi", which is similar, although reversed. It is possible that this George Fuller scene was the inspiration for the Currier & Ives print. Several other publishers produced later editions of Fuller's painting.
Fuller's painting shows the Baltic and Diana running neck and neck, encouraged by raftsmen making a more leisurely passage down the river. Leaving New Orleans within two minutes of each other, the paddle-wheelers were within sight of each other for most of the 1,382 miles to Louisville, running neck and neck at times and even once "locking horns," before the Baltic won the race.
It was one of the closest and most exciting steamboat races during the steamboating era. The fascination with speed records began as early as 1817, when the steamer General Washington made the trip from New Orleans to Louisville in 21 days, setting off great celebrations. Boats were constantly improved, with the Tecumseh making the same journey in eight days, seventeen hours in 1828, and the Sultana in four days and twenty-two hours in 1843. Most new boats aimed to break speed records, and head-to-head races were staged regularly before an enthralled public.
The racing era culminated with the celebrated race between the Robt. E. Lee and the Natchez in 1870.